I had only one thought. Markarth. Get to Markarth and find the man who did this to my wife. Arkay help anyone who gets in my way.
I pulled Arrow up at the stone steps of Markarth and pulled out my axe, rushing up the stairs at the guards posted there. With two swipes, I cleaved them both down, blood splattering everywhere. I heard shouts from the stables on my right, but I ignored them, pushing into the city.
My eyes glanced around as I breathed heavily, rage and revenge filling me. I spotted a guard and started to go for him, and his eyes grew large as I ran over, my axe held high. He managed to fend me off with his shield, shoving me backwards.
A couple locals joined in the fight against me, and I blocked them, yelling. "My fight isn't with you! It's with the Imperial bastards!"
I felt an arm snake around my neck from behind, putting me into a choke hold, and I struggled futility, trying to breathe. My vision grew dark around the edges, and I dropped my axe, trying to pry the hold away.
The last thing I heard before all went black was muffled, shocked voices all around me.
I came to slowly, my head screaming at me. I put a hand to my head, wincing at the movement, and I coughed, my neck sore as well. I took an experimental deep breath, and smelled dust, sweat and dirt.
I heard a door clang open and I opened my eyes.
"My...keep?" I asked hoarsely.
"There's no resting your hide in a cell in this prison. Here, in Cidhna Mine, you work. You'll mine ore until you start throwing up silver bars." She looked at me harshly. "You got it?"
I was confused and slightly dazed by this turn of events. "What...what's going on exactly?"
"Don't get smart with me. I'm in charge. You keep it up, I'll have your toes cut off."
I shut my mouth quickly. She shoved me in front of her, taking me out of the cell. "Come on, this way. You'll join the other prisoners before work detail begins."
I heard the sounds of digging all around and I joined the one other person at the fire to warm up. I sat down, staring into the flames, and my heart clenched again at the thought of Ysolda.
The other prisoner, dressed as I was in rags, looked to me. "What are you in for?"
I looked over at him and thought of what I had done. "Murder." I said simply, looking back into the flames.
"Violent one, huh? Best keep that to yourself, new blood. Others find out, they'll consider that a challenge. My name is Uraccen." At my silence, he continued. "My advice? Serve your time at the pickaxe and get out. You don't want to end up getting a shiv in the guts over a bottle of skooma."
My ears perked up. "Skooma." That might be just what I need to dull the pain. "Do you have any?"
The man wrinkled his nose. "Damn, you were addicted before you came here? I feel for you then. You'd have to talk with Madanach. He's sympathetic to guys like you, and I think he keeps a bottle around. You have to get past Borkul the Beast." He shoved a thumb over his shoulder to point at an Orc guarding a metal door.
Before I could think it through, I found myself in front of the Orc, who huffed at me, folding his arms. "What do you want, prisoner?"
"I want to see Madamach." I said, pointing at the door. "He's expecting me." I try and bluff, but with no success as the Orc chuckled.
"The only thing Madamach expects is a bottle of Skooma in tribute every so often. You're not getting through."
"Please, let me see him." My voice sounded weak, even to me.
"Get me a shiv, then. Grisvar makes the best ones. Get me one, and I might be persuaded to let you pass."
I backed off, going back to join the Uraccen at the fire. He looked at me. "No luck, huh? What did he want?"
"A shiv," I said sadly. "I don't feel like doing anything though. I just wish they'd let me die here." My heart longed for Ysolda, and I kept seeing her floating in the water at home, her unseeing eyes staring at me.
Uraccen's face took on a pitied look. "Tell you what, since you are new, and young, you can have my shiv." He reached into his ragged tunic, drawing forth a sharp piece of metal with leather rapped around the lower half of it, forming a type of grip. I hesitantly reached out, my fingers grasping it.
"Thank you." I said truthfully.
"I know how it is to be without a hit." Uraccen said. "Go get your Skooma, just remember me next time I need anything."
I felt a little guilty, but I really needed something to dull my deep ache. Just one bottle of Skooma for now, and that will be it.
I get up and bring the shiv over to Borkul. "Here's your shiv."
I went through the short tunnel, and it led out to a small hollowed out area with a bed and desk. An old man sat at the desk, writing something.
"Madanach?" I inquired.
The old man turned to glance at me, then went back to his writing.
"So, my fellow beast, what do you want? Answers about the Forsworn? Drugs? Spit it out."
Anger boiled up in me all at once, and I clenched my hands into fists, rushing towards him and slamming my fist into the side of his neck. "I want revenge, old man! Revenge for my wife!"
Madanach coughed harshly, but leapt to his feet and started swinging back. A short scuffle took place and I eventually had my hands around his neck. My vision was blurred and my anger was high, and before I knew it, he was dead.
When I realized what I had done, I took in a sharp gasp, scrambling off the old man's body. I sat against the nearby wall, my head in my hands, shaking. What have I become? How have I, a Nord, been overtaken by my emotions? How could I carelessly take a life like that.
I began to shake uncontrollably, and I crawled forward, digging through the man's pockets. A small bottle of skooma dropped out onto my open palm, as well as a letter.
After reading the letter, I stared at the small bottle in my hand. Then, in one fell swoop, I uncorked it and sucked it down, feeling the liquid burn on the back of my throat.
Almost immediately, a euphoric rush swept through my body. I didn't feel any pain, only pleasure. My heart rate increased, and I felt like I needed to run to get all the energy out. I snagged the key mentioned in the letter off the old man's body and ran for the nearby door I saw just around the corner.
Inside was a long tunnel full of spiders that I merely ran by, the energy I had was incredible. I kept running and running, and I felt like nothing could go wrong. Finally, I reached a large door and pushed it open, stunned to see the city of Markarth.
Before I could run for the front gates though, a man confronted me.
"What...what are you talking about?" I stammered.
"You don't think you ended up in there by accident?" He said, raising an eyebrow.
"My...my wife." I looked at him in horror.
"Was killed, yes, but she was a drug dealer. I needed someone to do something bad enough that would get them sent to the Mine, so that Madanach would be killed. You've done more than I could have asked--all on your own."
I fell to the ground on my knees in shock. "I...I don't even know who you are. And, Ysolda, she wasn't a drug dealer!"
The man shuffled through his pockets and handed me a letter. "Read for yourself."
Don't try to stiff me on this deal, Ulag.
I can talk the Khajiit caravans into a better price than you'd be able to, and the guards are still looking for you after that little skooma incident. Just bring the sap to my stall in Whiterun like we discussed.
I looked up at him, my vision filling with unshed tears. "No...it's not true." But there was no denying the handwriting. It was her.
"Either way, she's dead, and you did exactly what I wanted you to," He said. The man threw a backpack at me. "You'll find all your things that were confiscated. Nothing was taken, not even your gold. If you'll excuse me, I need to find a way to fill our mine up again with workers."
I watched him go off, my brain not quite grasping what was going on. I could feel the effects of the skooma still there, and I couldn't function to go after him. My wife, Ysolda....killed for such a petty desire of the Imperials. Just to get rid of some Forsworn leader. And I played right into their hands.
I didn't bother to even dress in my clothes from the backpack, I merely shrugged it over my shoulders and headed for the front gates.
I found Arrow at the stables, though his equipment was taken off and I couldn't find it. I was such in a fogged state, though, I rode him anyway, heading northeast on the road.
I saw a carriage up ahead and I stopped, paying the man to head to Windhelm. In the state I was in, I wouldn't be able to make it.
When I reached Windhelm, the skooma effects had worn off, and I was thinking of finding more. I didn't need anymore, of course, but just in case.
I did have a plan though, and I needed to have a clear head for it.
I walked straight up to Jarl Ulfric. "I want to join the Stormcloaks."
He looked at my state of dress and pointed to a side room. "Speak with Galmar. You've come to the right place, brother Nord. So long as any criminal past stays in the past, and you fight for me with honor and integrity, we'll welcome you into our ranks."
I went into the side room and spoke with the man there.
I didn't hesitate. "They killed my wife. Those Imperial dogs killed her, and left her body to rot in our home. Didn't even give her a proper burial. I want to fight the Empire. I'll bleed for the chance to do so."
Galmar looked somber for a moment. "Can't fault anyone for that. As long as you hate the Empire as much as I do, that I can work with."
"I can handle anything you throw at me." I said, standing firm.
He nodded. "That's what I like to hear."
"What's at Serpentstone Island?"
"You kill an Ice Wraith out there and I'll have all the proof I need about you. This will prove your abilities, but more importantly, it will prove your commitment."
I nod. "I'll do this. I'll get your Ice Wraith kill and bring back proof. I so swear it as a Nord."
I was left to my own devices, and I stood in place for a moment, swaying from my tiring journey. Sleep. And maybe a little pick-me-up if I can find some. I could feel the ache coming back and I wanted to combat that.
I would fight the entire Empire if need be.
Part 18 ----- Part 20